The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) today became the latest group to warn the public about unintended consequences of President Donald Trump’s already 20-day-long shutdown of the U.S. government. It says the country can expect its 5G rollout to be impacted, largely due to the FCC running out of funding and suspending key services on January 3, 2019.
The shutdown “comes at a vital moment when the U.S. is competing to stay ahead of the world in the race to 5G,” said TIA Government Affairs SVP Cinnamon Rogers. If companies can’t get their required FCC approval, there will be a “serious and negative impact on the approval of new connected devices that are designed to enable both 5G deployment and the full ecosystem of next generation technologies that 5G will support.”
Trump’s shutdown is based solely on a single issue: his demand for $5 billion in Congressional funding for a border wall with Mexico. By refusing to sign appropriations bills, Trump has caused numerous agencies to suspend services and denied paychecks to approximately 800,000 government workers, provoking everything from airport security screener walkouts to national park damages.
It’s likely the 5G rollout will indeed by impacted by the shutdown, though such effects won’t necessarily be easy to recognize. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint are all at different stages of their 5G network deployments, and each will be seeking FCC approval for soon-to-be-deployed early 5G devices. Relatively few such products, including several home modem and router components and a Netgear 5G hotspot, have already received FCC certification.
Rogers suggests that the FCC prepare for future disruptions by leaving its equipment authorization system open during shutdowns, removing certain categories of devices from requiring direct FCC approval, and allowing more devices to be certified by trusted third-party testing labs. The agency notably took its key equipment search page down to mark the shutdown, redirecting users to an explanation of its lack of funding, and FCC commissioners canceled their travel plans for CES, where they were set to speak on panels and meet with key industry players.
The TIA represents over 300 companies involved in communications networks, including providers of chips, tower hardware, fiber cabling, and related services. 5G is only one of the many topics it addresses; however, the next-generation cellular technology tops its list of near-term transformative technologies.